How do dental treatments work for dogs

Tartar and tartar removal in dogs

Reading time: approx. 7 minutes

What is tartar in dogs?

There are numerous bacteria and microorganisms in the oral cavity of our dogs. That is a good thing, because they offer natural protection against undesirable pathogenic germs. The number and type of these microorganisms are normally in equilibrium.

The dog's teeth also have a certain self-cleaning power, which, however, works differently more or less well. Numerous influencing factors such as:

  • Position of the teeth in the dentition
  • Distance between the interdental spaces
  • Texture of the tooth substance
  • Composition of saliva

are crucial for this. As a result, one dog is more susceptible to tartar, the other less.
A rough tooth surface, for example, can favor deposits of food residues (plaque). The rougher this surface is and the narrower the spaces between the teeth - possibly also due to misaligned teeth - the more and more strongly these food particles adhere to the tooth.

If the plaque persists for a long time, minerals from the saliva accumulate there and finally form a solid stone-like wall. This is subsequently colonized by partly pathogenic and harmful bacteria. The natural balance of the microorganisms is disturbed. Once the tartar has formed, it can no longer be removed by brushing your teeth.

Tartar in the dog is a stone wall made of saliva minerals, which is covered by pathogenic bacteria.


How are plaque and tartar formed?

Whenever our dog eats food, fine deposits of food residues, the so-called plaques, stick to the surface of the teeth. These leftovers mainly consist of carbohydrates and proteins. The deposits of calcium and phosphate compounds, which should naturally protect the dog's teeth, in the plaque lead to mineralization of these coatings.

Over time, this results in a solid stone-like structure that adheres to the teeth and cannot be removed by normal cleaning. Bacteria settle on the rough surface of the tartar and, in the long term, lead to periodontitis and thus to the destruction of the tooth support system.


How do I recognize tartar in dogs?

Tartar appears as a dark brown-gray stone-hard deposit on the tooth surface. The tartar is usually very badly smelling. This is due to the stinking metabolic end products of the bacteria that live in and on the tartar and feed on the leftover food. If you notice a growing mouth odor (foetor ex ore) in your dog, this is usually a clear indication of tartar.

If the teeth are already damaged, this can lead to pain and thus noticeable eating behavior. This can manifest itself through a noticeable head posture, such as one-sided chewing when the head is tilted or subtly through reduced feed intake.


What are the consequences of tartar in dogs?

The tartar infestation can pave the way for various secondary diseases of the dental system and the gums (periodontal diseases) and, if left untreated, leaves its mark on the dog's teeth:

  • Discoloration of the teeth (starting in the area between the tooth and the gums)
  • Noticeable rough deposits (mostly on the outside of the cheeks, fangs and fangs)
  • visible regression of the gums
  • accompanying inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
  • Bleeding gums
  • Infections of the jawbone
  • Loss of appetite up to refusal of food (due to severe pain)
  • strong bad breath
  • Pus collections (abscesses) in the root area of ​​the teeth
  • Loss of tooth

Untreated tartar and its consequences can lead to very serious complications. Infections of the jawbone are generally also suitable for spreading to the entire organism (heart, liver, kidney).

In particular, older heart patients with degenerative age valve diseases run the risk of developing life-threatening inflammation of the heart (endocarditis). Our advice is therefore: If you see signs, please do something, otherwise your animal may suffer unnecessarily and become seriously ill.


How can you remove tartar?

The best way to remove tartar yourself is not to let it develop in the first place. That is easy to say, but there is also a lot of truth to it. Once the hard plaque is completely mineralized, it can no longer be removed simply by brushing.

That is why dental care is so important as a preventive measure. Because if the plaque is still soft, you can remove it with a toothbrush (special dog toothbrush or a model for children) or finger cot by regularly brushing with dog toothpaste.


Remove tartar from the dog itself

Tartar scraper for the dog

  • There are, for example, special tartar scrapers on the market to remove tartar from dogs. In theory, you can do this yourself, but it guarantees a certain risk, because tartar removal is carried out by scraping and scratching, which can easily slip off and damage the oral mucosa, gums or tooth enamel of your four-legged friend.

Dental care gel for the dog

  • Dental care gels should remove or loosen the plaque within a few weeks. For this purpose, some gel is applied directly to the tartar with the finger or the finger toothbrush. In order to achieve the first results, however, this procedure must be carried out over a longer period of time.

Our opinion as veterinarians:

Various preparations on offer are usually not very effective and unfortunately promise more than they deliver. We even have to go one step further and warn: simply scraping or scraping off with so-called scalers or curettes leaves microscopic grooves in the tooth, which accelerate renewed tartar formation.

We have already discussed the risk of injury. Furthermore, they are unfortunately unsuitable for large-area removal or the removal of tartar below the gum line. Tartar-dissolving preparations can cause intolerance and allergic reactions.


Professional tartar removal

As in human medicine, we think it makes sense to have a professional tartar removal performed professionally using ultrasound. For this, a light general anesthetic is usually unavoidable. The subsequent polishing of the teeth with special instruments ensures a smooth surface of the teeth and thus prevents renewed tartar formation.


How often does tartar have to be removed?

How often the tartar removal has to be repeated depends on various factors. The most important factor is certainly how well the prophylaxis works by cleaning your dog's teeth.

However, as your pet gets older, tartar formation cannot be prevented one hundred percent. How fast that will be will certainly vary from person to person. Influencing factors can be, for example:

  • Individual saliva composition of the dog
  • Age of the dog
  • Breed of dog
  • individual anatomical self-cleaning power of the dentition
  • Germ flora in the mouth area
  • Texture of teeth

Annual treatment may be necessary for dogs that have an increased tendency to build up tartar.

When should I see the vet about the tartar?

When in doubt, you should always seek advice from a veterinarian and obtain information from specialists. However, you should always keep an eye on the following signs:

  • Increasing odor from the mouth
  • When the tartar is solid and cannot be removed by brushing
  • in the case of abnormal eating behavior, such as: one-sided chewing
  • with increased salivation
  • if the feed is refused (possibly caused by a toothache)
  • with unilateral swellings in the jaw area

The earlier the dental restoration can be carried out, the better the chances of preserving the teeth in the long term.


How much does a dog's tartar removal cost by a veterinarian?

As with all other services provided by the veterinarian, the costs for tartar removal consist of the veterinary services according to the fee schedule for veterinarians, the medicines and consumables used and the medicines dispensed.

Since anesthesia is necessary for effective dental restoration, it can be useful for elderly patients or other high-risk patients to carry out preliminary examinations to assess the anesthetic risk.

In the case of severe tartar infestation, a dental antibiotic is essential before the tartar removal, because otherwise life-threatening germs can explode through the bloodstream. If required, dental x-rays represent a further cost factor, which can provide a complete overview of the entire bony dental apparatus.


How can I prevent tartar build-up in my dog?

Dental prophylaxis is important to maintain dental health. The best precaution to prevent tartar build-up is to thoroughly remove the plaque.

Prevent tartar by brushing

  • Use a dog toothbrush or finger cots and animal toothpaste to remove plaque.
  • There are a number of different models that can be used for prevention, depending on the region of the tooth and personal preference.
  • Carry out teeth cleaning regularly
  • Toothpaste for humans is not suitable. On the one hand, it is generally not accepted in terms of taste, and on the other hand, the foam-forming substances can lead to stomach problems.
  • Animal toothpaste, on the other hand, is adapted to the taste of our four-legged friends.
  • Regular training is important for effective teeth cleaning.
  • It is best to get your dog used to brushing their teeth with a toothbrush from an early age.
  • But even with older dogs it is usually quite possible to train them to groom.

Prevent tartar from eating

Even if the dog likes it very well, a wet food diet has decisive disadvantages in terms of tartar build-up. If the formation of tartar in your dog is due to the wet food, it is best to switch to dry food.

  • Wet food leaves a kind of layer on the teeth
  • Food leftovers can get stuck in the gaps
  • Deposits form on the teeth
  • Dry food supports the natural cleaning of teeth through abrasion

Various feeds and chew toys are also available on the market, but they do not come close to the effectiveness of brushing your teeth. Regular dental care, ideally daily, but at least twice a week, provides good prevention against tartar build-up.



On our own behalf: veterinary check

Is the dental health of your animal important to you? Then you have come to the right place at the Schönfließ veterinary practice. Ideally, you should make an appointment for a preliminary examination with our dental specialists. An initial assessment of dental health is made here.

  • What actions are likely to need to be taken?
  • Do I have to take antibiosis before dental restoration?
  • How is the risk of anesthesia to be assessed?

In our in-house extensive laboratory, we can carry out the necessary blood tests within minutes and receive the results immediately. Should it be necessary to examine the cardiovascular system before the dental restoration, this will be clarified promptly by our cardiologists.

If the patient is then under anesthesia for dental treatment, this is monitored by us with the most modern technical devices. The connection to an anesthesia machine, in order to make the anesthesia gentle and safe, is standard with us.

With our dental x-ray devices, detailed digital images of the teeth and the tooth roots are made and thus allow a very precise assessment of the tooth status. Very small film plates are placed in the oral cavity and digital images are made with our special dental X-ray device with very little radiation exposure.

As soon as the corresponding measures are planned on this basis, they are put into practice with our professional dental unit according to human medical standards.


We hope we could tell you a little about the subject Tartar in the dog to inform. Take a look around our website, get to know the practice or get an overview of our services.

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